The Great War, BBC 1 Sunday 9pm, presented by Jeremy Paxman.
Posted by celticman on Wed, 05 Feb 2014
This the second of three programmes was entitled ‘The War Machine’. All wars, of course, are fought in the name of peace and it would be far better if it were left to machines. This is a great mock-up of 1966 and it’s all over now, but it was a close run thing. Paxman, for example, interviewed two retired trade-unionists in Ferguson’s shipyard in Glasgow. They were old, but they weren’t that old as to have been on strike for higher pay and better working conditions as those involved in the shipyards of Red Clydeside during World War One. Paxman paints such a great swathe he only had time to ask a few questions. I think any lawyers among the viewing public might have seen this as leading. ‘So you would be quite happy to part of a German colony?’ Uneasy laughter. ‘So you see these men [militants] as heroes?’ ‘Yes,’ they were happier to do that. But it would have been nice if one of them mentioned that it wouldn’t have made much difference to our forefathers if Kaiser Wilhelm or his cousin was on the throne. War profits, as the programme explained were just added value. War profiteers were those with good business sense to exploit high demand and an inelastic supply to force up prices. Labour was criminalised for trying to work by the same rules of the market. Paxman hinted at a more egalitarian society, a levelling action. In the last programme, for example, he got all serious when he mentioned some squire was buried on the same day, same order of service, as two working men from the village. The squire’s name, of course, came first. The Glasgow Rent strikes were seen as a great government triumph, price capping, and an astute move by the minster of munitions David Llloyd George to keep the machine rolling. These, of course, like a prohibition of drunkenness and pub opening hours were background to the 500 miles of trenches in Belguim and France. The war machine stuttered and ground to a halt 500 000 dead by the start of 1915. 100 000 men killed for every square mile not gained. Then we had the Somme and those Irish traitors and the Easter Rising of 1916. For Yeats, ‘a terrible beauty is borne’ but my preference is for ‘an aged man is but a paltry thing’.